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Learn About the Digestive System for Kids

Updated on June 2, 2013

When you eat food, it goes from your mouth through your digestive system. Digest means to 'break down." Your digestive system breaks down the food you eat, so your body can put it to use. This broken down food gives you the energy and nutrition you need to be healthy. It can take about 30 to 40 hours for eaten food to go all the way through your digestive system.

A system is made up of lots of different parts that work together. There are lots of parts in your digestive system. The main parts are the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

Parts of the digestive system
Parts of the digestive system

Esophagus

Digestion starts at the mouth. You chew food by grinding it with your teeth. A liquid in your mouth called saliva softens the food to make it easier to swallow. There are special chemicals in saliva called enzymes. These enzymes help to break down the food. When you swallow food, it goes through a tube called the esophagus and enters your stomach.

Stomach

Think of your stomach as a bag that holds foods. When it's filled, your stomach sends messages to your brain. These messages tell you that you're full. By the time food reaches your stomach, it no longer looks like the things you ate. It has been broken up into fats, proteins and sugars.

Your stomach has digestive juices called acids and enzymes. The food mixes with these juices and turns it into a liquid called chyme. The chyme gets pushed out of your stomach and then you start to feel hungry again.

Small Intestine

When food leaves the stomach it goes to the small intestine. The small intestine is a tube about 20 feet (6 meters) long. It breaks the fats, proteins and sugars down into tiny particles that can pass through the intestine walls. These particles enter the bloodstream and are taken throughout the body. They are used by the body's cells to make the energy you need to live.

Digestion Song for Kids

Large Intestine

Food that can't be broken down into tiny particles moves into the large intestine or colon. The large intestine is actually much shorter than the small intestine but it's much wider. It's only about 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length. Bacteria break down food even more. The parts of the food that are no longer needed are waste. This waste goes to a part of the body called the rectum, where it's removed.

Overview of the Digestive System

Other Organs that Help With Digestion

There are other important organs in the body that help with digestion.

  • Liver - the liver makes bile, which helps to break down fats. It also filters blood and removes things that shouldn't be in your body
  • Gallbladder - the gallbladder stores the bile until it's needed by the small intestine
  • Pancreas - the pancreas creates things called hormones and enzymes, which are needed for digestion. The hormones it makes are insulin and glucagon. These hormones make sure that you don't have too much or too little sugar in your blood

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